To paraphrase a famous quote from The Dark Knight: You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself on the receiving end of ‘With/Without’ stats on Twitter.
So let's dive in.
With Marcelo, Real Madrid have only won one of their last nine La Liga games. Without Marcelo – and with 22-year-old Sergio Reguilón starting in his place – they have won eight in a row. Coincidence?! There is no such thing in the arena of football.
That does somewhat ignore the fact Reguilón featured in games Madrid lost in the midst of that eight-game spell. But he came on as a substitute, which evidently doesn't count.
So, is Marcelo in decline? Should Madrid sit their fans down and tell them, gently, that their favourite family left-back has been taken to a nice, green little training pitch in Turin? Let’s take a look.
First off, Marcelo and Reguilón’s playing styles are pretty similar.
Both spend time getting forward, both are an important part of how the team plays in terms of providing width and attacking threat high up the pitch. And Reguilón can hit the kind of pinging cross-field passes that Marcelo can, too.
But the real question isn’t about playing style, of course, it’s about performance.
Here are two things that are true. Marcelo makes fewer defensive actions to Reguilón. Marcelo of 2018/19 is also making fewer than Marcelo of 2017/18. Given Real Madrid have been going through a rough patch, that doesn’t seem ideal, nor does the fact that his tackle success rate has gone down.
Defensive stats can vary naturally, as well as depending on the player’s role within a team, but 2018/19 pales into comparison with 2016/17 as well.
|Reguilón 18/19||Marcelo 18/19||Marcelo 17/18||Marcelo 16/17|
|Tackles plus interceptions per 90||2.8||1.83||2.78||3.65|
|Tackle success rate||63%||55%||72%||61%|
There does, actually, appear to be a downward trajectory.
It would be remiss not to mention certain caveats. Marcelo’s take-on numbers have gone up, so it could be that the Brazilian is just being asked to play a slightly different role this season.
But then there are caveats within caveats. If he’s been asked to play a different role, spending more time attacking, is this because he’s no longer able to play a more all-round role?
Given there are rumours that Marcelo wants to join Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus in the summer, Madrid may as well let them find out the answer, and for a hefty price.